Is Election Transparency Important to Democracy?

Campaign finance reform is about much more than limits to donations, MintPress News reports. Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perception Index says that the $3.7 billion spent on elections in the 2014 midterms has added to a “murky nexus” between money and politics.

Much of this money was spent by Super PACs, groups that are exempt from disclosure regulations. This loophole exists because Super PAC money is supposed to be directed to educational advertisements. This one requirement is easily circumvented, because transparency laws in many states only prohibit the use of so called magic words, such as “vote for” and “vote against.” Attack ads can therefore become pervasive without having to reveal the people who financed them.

Moreover, an article on ABC 10 News explains that many of these groups devote all of their money to supporting a single candidate. A recent report from Public Citizen reveals that 45% devoted all their funds to a single candidate. For instance, Texans for a Conservative Majority spent all $1.1 million it raised to opposing Steve Stockman, Republican Senator John Cornyn’s 2014 opponent. Similarly, Georgians Together gave all their donations, $549,999, to Michelle Nunn, the Democratic candidate in 2014.

Some states are looking to institute more reforms. Minnesota State Representative Ryan Winkler has sponsored bills that would improve transparency, and a referendum passed in Tallahassee, Florida would – among other things – impose stricter regulations for preventing conflicts of interest. Even the IRS proposed new guidelines in 2014 for limited reform. All these measures have received bi-partisan opposition, but even so 31 states now require greater transparency.